International recognition for excellence in river restoration and protection
The International RiverFoundation awarded Buffalo Niagara Riverkeeper with the inaugural North American Riverprize, a prestigious global recognition for organizations demonstrating excellence and diversity in river restoration. Buffalo Niagara Riverkeeper was recognized for 25 years of groundbreaking collaborative river restoration throughout the Niagara River watershed.
Among the organization's many achievements is the unique restoration partnership that has put the Buffalo River on a trajectory to be delisted from the federal list of Great Lakes Areas of Concern. The Buffalo River is a major tributary of the Niagara River, and therefore a significant source of historical and ongoing pollution.
David Garman, chairman of the North American Riverprize judging panel, said this is an outstanding example of resurrecting a river with more than 150 years of pollution - one that was formerly classified as "dead."
"But more than this," he said, "the community used the opportunity to establish a vision with innovative strategies, trying new infrastructure, and developing novel working relationships. They have gone beyond the local issues to involve Canada and the Great Lakes communities to restore the river. It is a classic example containing all the elements the judges were looking for in the first North American Riverprize winner."
Jill Jedlicka, executive director of Buffalo Niagara Riverkeeper, accepted the prize Saturday in New Mexico at the International RiverFoundation's annual gala dinner ceremony. The event was held in conjunction with the annual River Rally, which convenes river professionals from across North America.
"As Buffalo Niagara Riverkeeper celebrates 25 years of progress for our water, we are honored that our innovative work has been recognized by the International RiverFoundation," Jedlicka said. "Our collaborative efforts to improve water quality and public access in the Great Lakes have been successful because of the decades of tremendous citizen engagement. We thank all of our supporters, partners and the Western New York community for this shared honor, and as there is much more work to be done, we reaffirm our commitment to continued progress for our region's water resources."
Riverkeeper was awarded a trophy and a $5,000 cash prize, and the Niagara River now automatically qualifies for stage two of the next Thiess International Riverprize - to be awarded in 2016 or 2017. The North American Riverprize was awarded in partnership with River Network and is the latest addition to a suite of Riverprizes awarded by the International RiverFoundation.
The three finalists in the 2015 North American Riverprize are the Connecticut River (Connecticut, Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire), the Sun River (Montana) and the San Antonio River (Texas).
Nicole Silk, president of River Network, said, "We are thrilled to launch the North American Riverprize with the International RiverFoundation at River Rally 2015. Each of the finalists represent extraordinary efforts to restore their rivers - efforts that deserve our attention and recognition so that we can learn and up our game for rivers everywhere."
Buffalo Niagara Riverkeeper is a community-based organization dedicated to protecting the quality and quantity of water, while connecting people to water. It is a member of the global Waterkeeper Alliance.
To learn more about Buffalo Niagara Riverkeeper, visit bnriverkeeper.org.